LEXINGTON - When Western Hills senior Jonathan Thomas was roaring down the stretch in the finals of the 1,600 meters Saturday at the KHSAA Class AA State Track Meet, he glanced back over his shoulder and saw a sight that he'd ached to see for nearly six years - the rest of the field behind him in a state championship race.
"It's a bad habit," Thomas said after tasting victory in a personal record 4:23.13. "I kept telling myself, 'Don't look back, don't look back.' But I guess I knew I had it. And then I told myself, 'Just keep going, just keep going.' I was racing the clock then."
How nice it must have been for Thomas to race the clock rather than the demons that haunted him for the past three years, since he collapsed in the region (literally) and state (finishing 14th after going in as one of the favorites) cross country races as a sophomore.
He was so shaken by those experiences that Thomas didn't even run track as a sophomore.
"That was my lowest point, when I collapsed at region and state as a sophomore in cross country," Thomas said. "Because I knew I could do it, and everybody thought I was a fluke."
Thomas came back last spring in track to finish second behind Boyle County's Daniel Morgan in the state 1,600. Morgan won that race in 4:27.60 with Thomas as 4:31.89.
Thomas followed that by running a very strong third in state cross country this past fall, smashing his personal record with a clocking of 16:29.28 over 5,000 meters (3.1 miles).
For more on this story, see the latest State Journal.